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Thursday’s slate and what to watch

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Yet another day of watching college basketball all day. This is the sport’s holiday gift to us.

So what shouldn’t you miss tonight? Plenty. And good luck to those of you on the East Coast. The late, late games may be the best of the night.

(All times ET; TV info courtesy of HDSportsGuide.com)

Missouri vs. Illinois at St. Louis, Mo., 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Though let’s start with this, one of the few rivalry games on the slate, featuring two teams with combined records of 22-1. But those records are a little deceiving. The Illini aren’t in Missouri’s class, mostly because the two are polar opposites on offense – only Florida boats a more efficient offense than the Tigers – while Illinois’ defense is its calling card. We’ll see if Mizzou’s overwhelming edge at guard is too much for Illinois to withstand.

Memphis at Georgetown, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
What to make of these Tigers? Loaded with talent, but unable to beat a marquee team, this could be their best chance. They already lost once to Georgetown this season, but it was an overtime thriller and the Hoyas (9-1) have done little to test themselves since. Maybe this is finally the point Memphis plays a little defense.

Florida State at Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Unstoppable force (Florida’s offense) meets immovable object (Florida State’s defense). Buckle up.

Northwestern at Creighton, 8 p.m. (Action3News)
Action3News is an Omaha station. If you can dial it up, do it. The odds of Doug McDermott staging an epic shootout with Northwestern’s John Shurna is pretty high. In fact, the odds of seeing an all-offense, no-defense are better than Kim Kardashian hooking up with an athlete in the next month.

Butler at Stanford, 9 p.m. (FSN)
The Cardinal (10-1) should dominate this game. Butler’s offense will have issues scoring against a solid defense and it’s the last of what’s been a trying non-conference schedule for the Bulldogs (5-7). Then again, Butler had no business beating Purdue, either.

Baylor vs. St. Mary’s in Las Vegas Invite, 10 p.m. (ESPN3)
The first of two potentially fantastic games. St. Mary’s (10-1) hasn’t played much of a schedule yet, but the Gaels have what Baylor doesn’t – guards who know how to run an offense. Plus, St. Mary’s frontcourt is actually a little underrated. The Bears (10-0) should feast on the boards with their massive frontline, but I bet the Gaels’ rebounding keeps this one close. And if it’s close, I like their odds if Matthews Dellavedova gets a chance at the final shot.

Long Beach State vs. Xavier in Diamond Head Classic, 11 p.m. (ESPNU)
Last one. And it’s a good one. LBS has played the nation’s second-toughest non-conference schedule, and this marks the end of a long, trying stretch to prepare for Big West play. The 49ers get the added benefit of facing a depleted Xavier team, too. Starting guard Mark Lyons and wing Dezmine Wells are still sitting for suspensions earned during their brawl against Cincinnati, which leaves Tu Holloway to do all the heavy lifting – and try to slow down Casper Ware. Xavier (8-1) was a mess in it s last game, a 22-point loss to Oral Roberts. Holloway’s back, but LBS is a far superior foe. Who knows what to expect here?

EAST

Drexel at Binghamton, 7 p.m.

Bucknell at Boston U., 7 p.m.

La Salle at CCSU, 7 p.m.

Texas St. at Fordham, 7 p.m.

James Madison at George Washington, 7 p.m.

Memphis at Georgetown, 7 p.m.

FAU at Harvard, 7 p.m.

Colgate at Hofstra, 7 p.m.

San Francisco at Holy Cross, 7 p.m.

Rider at Monmouth (NJ), 7 p.m.

Niagara at Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.

Princeton at Siena, 7 p.m.

Tulane at Syracuse, 7 p.m.

Fairfield at UConn, 7 p.m.

Davidson at UMass, 7 p.m.

American U. at Villanova, 7 p.m.

Loyola of Chicago at Canisius, 7:30 p.m.

NJIT at Rutgers, 7:30 p.m.

Texas-Arlington at St. Peter’s, 7:30 p.m.

SOUTH

Loyola (Md.) at Kentucky, 1 p.m.

Mount St. Mary’s at Savannah St., 6 p.m.

Campbell at Appalachian St., 7 p.m.

Coll. of Charleston at Coastal Carolina, 7 p.m.

Gardner-Webb at East Carolina, 7 p.m.

Florida St. at Florida, 7 p.m.

Georgia Southern at Georgia St., 7 p.m.

Mercer at Georgia Tech, 7 p.m.

Delaware at Howard, 7 p.m.

Northeastern at NC State, 7 p.m.

VMI at Old Dominion, 7 p.m.

Navy at Presbyterian, 7 p.m.

VCU at UNC Greensboro, 7 p.m.

E. Michigan at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m.

Toledo at Florida Gulf Coast, 7:05 p.m.

Miami at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Bowling Green at FIU, 7:30 p.m.

Northwestern St. at Mississippi St., 8 p.m.

South Florida at Southern Miss., 8 p.m.

UTSA at Troy, 8 p.m.

Jacksonville at UAB, 8 p.m.

MIDWEST

UMBC at Indiana, 6 p.m.

Bradley at Michigan, 6:30 p.m.

Sam Houston St. at Cleveland St., 7 p.m.

Alabama St. at Detroit, 7 p.m.

Cent. Michigan at Wright St., 7 p.m.

Robert Morris at Youngstown St., 7:05 p.m.

Idaho at Green Bay, 8 p.m.

N. Dakota St. at Minnesota, 8 p.m.

Arkansas St. at Saint Louis, 8 p.m.

North Dakota at W. Illinois, 8 p.m.

Northwestern at Creighton, 8:05 p.m.

Boise St. at Iowa, 8:30 p.m.

Miami (Ohio) at Ohio St., 8:30 p.m.

Milwaukee at Marquette, 9 p.m.

Lehigh at Michigan St., 9 p.m.

Illinois at Missouri, 9 p.m.

SOUTHWEST

NC Central at Prairie View, 7:30 p.m.

Louisiana Tech at Arkansas, 8 p.m.

LSU at North Texas, 8 p.m.

Dallas Christian at SMU, 8 p.m.

Grambling St. at TCU, 8 p.m.

Rice at Texas A&M, 8 p.m.

Texas Tech at Oral Roberts, 8:05 p.m.

FAR WEST

Bethune-Cookman vs. Texas A&M-CC at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 3 p.m.

South Alabama at San Diego, 5 p.m.

Tennessee Tech vs. Kennesaw St. at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 5:30 p.m.

Bryant at Arizona, 7 p.m.

Elon at San Diego St., 7:30 p.m.

Missouri St. vs. West Virginia at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 8 p.m.

UC Santa Barbara at BYU, 9 p.m.

Texas Southern at Colorado, 9 p.m.

The Citadel at Denver, 9 p.m.

Air Force at Gonzaga, 9 p.m.

Utah Valley at Montana, 9 p.m.

UMKC at New Mexico, 9 p.m.

UC Davis at S. Utah, 9 p.m.

Butler at Stanford, 9 p.m.

Utah at Weber St., 9 p.m.

Wyoming at Idaho St., 9:05 p.m.

Colorado St. at N. Colorado, 9:05 p.m.

Pacific at CS Bakersfield, 10 p.m.

Portland at Nevada, 10 p.m.

Stephen F. Austin at Oregon, 10 p.m.

Hope International at UC Irvine, 10 p.m.

San Jose St. at UC Riverside, 10 p.m.

CS Northridge at Washington, 10 p.m.

Pepperdine at Washington St., 10 p.m.

Portland St. at Cal St.-Fullerton, 10:05 p.m.

SE Missouri at Sacramento St., 10:05 p.m.

Kent St. at Utah St., 10:05 p.m.

Saint Mary’s (Cal) vs. Baylor at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 10:30 p.m.

Kansas at Southern Cal, 11 p.m.

TOURNAMENTS

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

At Honolulu

First Round

UTEP vs. Clemson, 2:30 p.m.

Kansas St. vs. S. Illinois, 5 p.m.

Long Beach St. vs. Xavier, 11 p.m.

Auburn at Hawaii, 1:30 a.m.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
Purdue Athletics
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.